In its own effort to apply innovative working methods, with the aim of supporting the attainment of the 2030 Agenda and beyond, the High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), at its thirty-sixth session in October 2018, engaged in an exploratory discussion on strategic foresight. Recognizing the considerable benefit of anticipatory, adaptive and future-aware perspectives to enrich the Committee’s work in addressing complex, interlinked, rapidly changing and unforeseen challenges that the world is facing, and taking into account existing foresight experiences and capacities within the United Nations system, the Committee, at its thirty-seventh session in April 2019, agreed to pursue the creation of an informal Foresight Network and conduct a pilot exercise thereon.

Foresight is an organizational capacity that the United Nations system can use to gather and process information about the future operating environment, allowing for the creation of various scenarios of alternative, planned and desired futures. While they do not predict the future, foresight tools, methodologies and design processes are able to mine the external political, economic, social, technological and legal environments for trends and developments and leverage those insights to inform and improve decision-making today.

In line with its role of promoting forward-looking, proactive, innovative and strategic thinking on current and emerging global challenges, the Committee decided to focus the pilot strategic foresight exercise on the theme of the future of work in sub-Saharan Africa, while factoring in the impact of population movements, including due to climate change. Building on work by the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) and the Committee on the theme, namely the United Nations system strategy on the future of work, and making use of other relevant analyses, insights and data available across the United Nations system, the Committee engaged in a one-day foresight exercise at its thirty-eighth session in October 2019. It confirmed the practical relevance and applicability of strategic foresight to the Committee’s system-wide analytical and policy coherence work and provided concrete guidance in support of the implementation of the strategy of the United Nations system on the future of work. Members had also welcomed the establishment of the informal HLCP Foresight Network.  

Since its formation in 2019, the HLCP Foresight Network, led by UNESCO, promoted and supported foresight capacities and futures literacy across the United Nations system, as well as fostered cross-agency and system-wide collaboration in this field with a view to finding innovative solutions to contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Notably, it informed the Committee’s analytical work, in particular the workstream on duties to the future, within which it contributed to nurturing long-term planning and intergenerational thinking across the United Nations system. 

At its forty-fifth session in March 2023, the Committee approved the proposal for a gradual transition of the Network into a new Foresight Community of Practice, led by the United Nations Futures Lab and coordinated by UNESCO, to support the broader effort to upgrade internal skills and expertise across innovation, data, digital, foresight and behavioural science towards realizing a “United Nations 2.0”  that delivers stronger impact.

  • Foresight
  • High-Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP)

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